They sacrificed their sonsPsalm 106 v37-38
and their daughters to false gods.
They shed innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was desecrated by their blood.
The importance of blood and what it represents seems to be something rarely talked about these days. We know about the blood of Jesus, but it is often removed from its context and full meaning.
The life of the living was established very early on to reside in the blood, and it is clear what happens when blood is shed unjustly:
“Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites.Numbers 35 v33-34
Innocent bloodshed is regarded by God as something that pollutes the land. The exile of Judah in 786BC was actually precipitated by this sin.
Understand that timing of the Lord’s response is not the same as ours – Manasseh’s wicked reign began in 687 BC, but Jerusalem did not fall until just over 100 years later. But this judgment fell even after Josiah’s reforms and repentance. As Jonathan Edwards wrote:
The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose.
The shedding of innocent blood cannot go unanswered – sooner or later it requires a reckoning. It is so serious that it leads to the desecration, or desolation, of the very land itself.
This brings us then to Jesus. In the shedding of His blood, He answered and satisfied the required atonement. The ultimate reckoning He took upon Himself . This sacrificial atonement of blood, the very essence of life, was fulfilled in Jesus, when He shed His blood in our place.
But, there still remains a choice. This is a sacrifice that has to be accepted. He can only be in us, and we in him if we surrender our lives to Him, as He did for us. Atonement for bloodshed is either found through Jesus, or it is required from the hands of those who shed it.
All this is crucial to understand the times in which we live.
In 2021 approximately 112 million people died. Nearly 43 million of those were babies killed in the womb. Abortion is the leading cause of death globally. Let that sink in for a bit. In 2022 the butchery continues – at the time of writing 61 million have died, of which 26 million are babies murdered in utero.
Oceans of blood are on our hands. There was a time where we may have understood what that meant. Though our understanding has faded and been corrupted, it doesn’t change our culpability.
Can we seriously imagine that God is indifferent to our industrial scale butchery?
Our land is drowned in the blood of innocence, the cry reaches to heaven, and the only answer that suffices – the atoning blood of Jesus – is ignored or despised. The only thing that might give us a chance.
The unconscionable murder of so many innocent human beings requires a response. God is not unjust; he did not ignore Manasseh’s crimes, is He any more likely to overlook our comparably more heinous offence?
Perhaps we don’t even need to talk of judgment, but consequence – what happens when we abandon the only One who can cover our offense. What happens when the restrainer is withdrawn. “Your will be done”, God says to us. There is no more profound judgment than that. God did not cause what then follows. We do. We choose death, and death chooses us.
This is the reality, this is the time in which we live. Which is why my heart hurts to see so much of the Church asleep! Indifferent, unaware, slumbering, careless in the face of approaching disaster! Our eyes are closed just as were the Israelites prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. We don’t want to hear anybody speaking an uncomfortable message. We don’t want to face the winds of our pagan culture head on; we’d rather hide in our buildings.
If we don’t, or won’t, understand the times in which we live, how will we be salt and light? Rather, we can expect to be tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind. Having so little appreciation, we run the risk of being like the foolish virgins with no oil for their lamps. We won’t be able to shed any light for ourselves, let alone anybody else.
And shedding light is the desire of God for us. To be awake, sober, understanding and ready. Lamps full of oil and wicks trimmed so the light of Christ may shine brightly in a world racked by turmoil. Ready to be His hands and feet, ready to rescue those who can no longer rescue themselves. To guide to safe harbour as the storm gathers strength. To put our lives on the line, because we are no longer our own. To see past the current desecration of the land to the future of hope – the new heavens and earth that He promises for those who endure and overcome in the blood of the Lamb.